Thanksgiving means looking forward to leftovers

November 29, 2019

When I mentioned to a friend that we planned to go out for dinner on Thanksgiving, I was met with dismay. Not because I wasn’t cooking a big meal, but because I wouldn’t have any leftovers to enjoy. Another friend, invited to her in-laws for turkey dinner, was also dismayed for the identical reason. Both of us decided on the same plan – prepare a turkey just for the leftovers.

Although tender slices of roast turkey under a shimmering puddle of gravy is my favorite bite of the day, I always look forward to sandwiches, enchiladas, soups and casseroles assembled from the leftovers. The typical pattern includes making a sandwich layered with as many ingredients as possible, like the one in the photo.

The following day, we re-create as much of the original meal as we can with what remains: mashed potatoes reheated in butter, turkey slices simmered in gravy, stuffing mixed with beaten eggs and baked in a cupcake tin. After these three iterations of turkey as turkey, it is usually time to disguise it.

One hearty alternative is a turkey noodle soup (which can also be prepared with leftover chicken). Since the turkey is already cooked, you won’t need to add it to the broth and vegetable mixture until you’ve had a chance to simmer and slightly reduce the liquid. When you add the noodles, toss in the chopped or shredded turkey meat for the final 10 minutes or so.

Another easy way to use the final bits of turkey meat is to assemble enchiladas. Since I don’t make them very often, this is one dish where I permit myself to purchase canned enchilada sauce. After trying various sauces, I found a combination of red sauce on the bottom of the baking pan and green sauce over the top produced the nicest flavor balance.

There are any number of recipes out there for one of my favorite college dishes: turkey tetrazzini (we called it turkey tree-zees). The most common ingredient in these recipes is canned cream of mushroom soup, which has enough sodium in it to exceed your recommended daily allowance in one meal.

Although it takes a bit longer, this recipe uses fresh mushrooms to make the creamy sauce. You can substitute linguine or regular spaghetti for the fettuccine, if you prefer, but the idea is to use a long pasta, not elbows or bow ties. For added interest, the finished dish is topped with cheese and breadcrumbs and placed in the oven to brown.

The one item that seems to stick around the longest after Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. Of course, it’s a zesty addition to the layered turkey sandwich, but it’s also good as a mix-in for muffins. You can’t use cranberry relish for these; you’ll need a whole-berry-style cranberry sauce for the correct balance of moisture. Another option is to mix the cranberry sauce into a waffle or pancake batter to add lovely color and sweet-tart flavor.

With all these options, it’s no wonder those of us eating somewhere else on Thanksgiving Day will have to roast our own turkey to make sure we have leftovers.

Turkey Noodle Soup

1 T butter
1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 C chopped celery
1 C thinly sliced carrots
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 t dried thyme
6 C chicken or turkey broth
3 C shredded cooked turkey
6 oz dry egg noodles
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T chopped parsley

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in onion, celery and carrot; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the thyme and broth; bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the noodles and turkey; cook until noodles are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Yield: 6 servings.

Turkey Tetrazzini

8 oz fettuccine
2/3 C frozen peas
1 T olive oil
1 diced onion
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 C white wine
2 C cubed cooked turkey
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 C chicken or turkey broth
1 C cream
1 C whole milk
3 T chopped parsley
1 C grated Parmesan
1/4 C bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat the inside of a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cook the fettuccine according to package directions, adding peas during final few minutes of cooking. Drain and transfer to the baking dish. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low, and sauté the onions and mushrooms until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and toss with cooked pasta and shredded turkey. Melt butter in the same pan over low. Sprinkle in the flour and cook the roux until lightly golden, stirring constantly. Add the broth, cream and milk, whisking until smooth and thickened. Pour the sauce over the baking dish and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix together parsley, Parmesan and bread crumbs; sprinkle over baking pan. Cook until golden, about 20 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.

Cranberry Sauce Muffins

2 C flour
1 C sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 egg
1 vanilla
1 C plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C olive oil 
1 C whole-berry cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together egg, vanilla, yogurt and olive oil. Pour the yogurt mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients along with the cranberry sauce. Stir just until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan, filling the muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake until lightly browned and tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins.

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